Dining with family who lives on the budget
(WZZM) - Thousands go to bed hungry every night in West Michigan, and WZZM 13's Hannah Saunders is getting just a taste of the issue. During the week of September 8-14, Hannah will eat only within the boundaries of the average budget of a single adult on food stamps. It won't give her a complete feel of what many have to deal with, but will point her in the direction of some big issues these people face everyday.
She will be allowed $31.50 for the week, and can only eat and drink what has been purchased with that money. The average person enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) receives $4.50 a day ($31.50 a week).
Hannah hopes the challenge will give her more empathy as she looks into today's issues of federally funded food. A full story of her experience will air early next week.
Hannah will continue posting her progress here, as well as on her Twitter, and Facebook pages. You can also keep up with the story on the Hunger Challenge's Twitter and Facebook.
Read Hannah's daily journal below:
DAY 1 (Sunday, Sept. 8): Let me tell you a little about my eating habits first; I am not a very healthy eater. I work a crazy schedule, and have no one else at home to worry about, so I eat meals when I want, and a lot of those meals are take-out. I am not very good at shopping for healthy foods, other than I try to eat as many fruits and veggies as I can, and stick away from ice cream (my favorite food). My diet is full of variety, and inconsistency. So far on the SNAP Hunger Action Week Challenge, I feel pretty good. Today I ate cereal, a peanut butter sandwich, a sort-of huevos rancheros-like dish for dinner, and lots of frozen grapes in between. I feel satisfied, but I could really go for some ice cream right now! I feel like I ate much healthier than I would have on a typical football Sunday. Overall, off to a good start!
DAY 2 (Monday, Sept. 9): Okay, not feeling so great today, and it's because I can't have coffee; it's too expensive! I wake up for my shift at 2:30 each morning, and I guess I didn't realize how dependant I've become on caffeine. I usually have two cups of coffee, and a diet coke in the afternoon. It's the first little part of my daily routine I realize now, I take for granted. Other than that, I am still feeling pretty satisfied with my meals. For breakfast, I had cereal an toast, salad for lunch and this rice/ham...burger dish with green beans for dinner. I snacked on cereal and grapes in between. I am going to bed feeling pretty good; no grumbly stomach yet. I am mostly just dreading my 2:30 a.m. alarm again. When do the caffeine-detox headaches go away?
DAY 3 (Tuesday, Sept. 10): I'm starting to get sick of this food. I'm used to a bigger variety of foods in my life, and also more snacks. It is such a big habit to break when I walk into my kitchen, to not be able to just grab a cookie or something on my way out. I want a cookie, or something else unhealthy. Perhaps this is a sugar craving? I also can't kick my caffeine cravings; still getting those headaches every morning before the shows. Again, I had cereal and toast for breakfast and lunch. I ran out of time to make dinner, which probably would have been more of some sort of rice dish, so I had leftovers...which was rice anyway. I am still not too hungry today, just getting irritated by the cycle of the same foods. I'm starting to dream about what I can eat when I'm off this challenge, although dreaming about it makes me sad too; some people don't have anything to look forward to. For some, next week, and the week after, it will be the same...again...and again...and again...
DAY 4 (Wednesday, Sept. 11): When I was asked to do this challenge, I wasn't very excited about it at first. I did not want it to come across as a story of me not getting everything I want for a week, then moving back to my normal lifestyle. Therefore, I knew I had to get involved in the community and meet people who really do have to deal with this budget all the time. I was introduced to Russ and Ruth, who've been down on their luck. Three years ago, Russ was laid-off from his job around the same time their house burnt down. They both are diabetic, and trying to get healthy again, but are currently disabled and cannot work. They graciously invited me over for dinner. They explained how they make their $190 per month stretch far; they use coupons, buy in bulk, and take advantage of the 'double up bucks' promotions at farmers markets. They've taken free cooking classes to learn how to make their food as healthy as possible on their budget. Ruth also volunteers at a local food bank to give back. I am most impressed by their willingness to share their story, as a way of supporting others dealing with the similar struggles. They fed me a good chicken dinner with salad and bread. It was delicious! The only other meal I had today was toast in the morning. I toasted it a little too long, but couldn't afford it to go to waste, so I ate it anyway. I am so grateful to Ruth, Russ, and their daughter Loren for inviting me in on their family time, feeding me, and making me feel so welcome.
DAY 5 (Thursday, Sept. 12): Today I got to talk with a few other people taking this challenge, and it was great to hear how they were doing. It was great to hear how the Challenge has affected their perspective on hunger in West Michigan. Again, this simulation is not nearly the same as being in the actual situation, but it was nice to hear the little lessons others are learning throughout the week; the things we take for granted. Today I ate pretty much the same foods as all week, plus beans and rice for dinner. I am getting very sick of rice. When this Challenge is over, I don't think I'll be able to look at it for a while...same with toast. I am feeling a little hungry going to bed tonight.
DAY 6 (Friday, Sept. 13): It's Friday? The pacing of this week has been strange to me. It seems like it's gone by fast and slow, in a way; fast with how busy I've been meeting so many people through this challenge, while trying to cram more cooking time into my schedule. It's been slow because of my meals. I cannot wait until Sunday, when I can eat whatever I want again. I am so sick of the same foods over and over, and I realize now how spoiled I am to normally have such variety in my diet. Also, I am running out of food. I ate too much at the beginning of the week. Today's lesson on the stresses of the hungry, eating with this income takes a ton of planning in several different ways; money, rationing, and it all would be much tougher if I had to do the math with more people in my household. I cannot imagine what this would be like with kids. I ate similar food as all week again, just a little less today. I am feeling hungry and irritable.
DAY 7 (Saturday, Sept. 14): With no food to spare, I made it through the week. Really, I scraped the bottom of the peanut butter jar, ate all the bread, etc. Going back to my normal life tomorrow is bittersweet. I am excited to be able to have my regular foods again, but I will never look at grocery shopping the same. Again, I didn't get the whole experience of what thousands of my West Michigan neighbors go through every week, but I got a taste, and learned little lessons here and there on the Hunger Challenge, which I may have never learned otherwise. I recommend it to everyone, and cannot wait to show you a full story of the experience!
Watch WZZM 13 News Tuesday at six to see the full story of Hannah's week on the SNAP Hunger Challenge.